SUMMARY: Organizations can help all leaders to develop and refine strategies that support a psychologically safe work environment. This can have positive impact on both the bottom line and organizational excellence. The assessment is just the first step. Resources that support continual improvement are provided.

After administering the assessments to leaders, the focus should be on supporting the development of realistic action plans to implement or improve specific strategies. Also consider whether the approach will be to work with leaders as a group or individually to implement or improve specific strategies.

Micro-changes that are integrated with existing leadership responsibilities can be more effective and sustainable than trying to implement many changes at once. Start with those that will be easy for leaders to implement, and/or those that may have the greatest positive impact and therefore worth the added effort.

Identify leadership strategies to incorporate organization-wide.

Compare leadership assessment results and consider leadership strategies that the organization would like to incorporate for all leaders.

Each of the strategies in the Psychologically Safe Leader Assessment can contribute to a psychologically healthy and safe work environment. The reasons why leaders may not currently be implementing them could include any of the following:

  • Unaware of the strategy.
  • Never instructed to do it.
  • Do not have the time or resources.
  • Lack of ability or skill.
  • Lack of actual or perceived authority.
  • Ineffective approach to implementation.
  • Uncomfortable with the approach.

In cases where leaders are implementing the approaches, and their direct reports do not confirm their observations or experiences, the reasons for this discrepancy could include:

  • A workplace incident that colours perception – e.g., poor labour relations, merger, etc.
  • Changes in team dynamic.
  • Current conflict.
  • Current changes that are difficult for employees.
  • Personal health issues that cloud judgment or observations.

The Psychologically Safe Leader Assessment is intended to objectively look at perceptions and support a shared understanding of effective leadership strategies.

Ask leaders what they need in terms of time, resources, skills or training to implement.

  • Effective organizational leadership is a shared responsibility. Solicit direct input from leaders on the resources (time, expenses) and other supports (skills, training) they require to develop psychologically safer strategies and approaches.
  • The following questions help create an accountability process that supports reasonable and sustainable leadership development.
  1. From your perspective, what are the most important ways in which any leader can positively impact the psychological health and safety of their employees and the work environment?

[Note to senior leader: Take these answers for your own learning and development as well. Reflect on whether you demonstrate the qualities described. Also, continue to ask, “And what else?” to expand on the initial answer. You may want to collect these answers from all of your leaders and without disclosing the source, present all of them for a discussion about the challenges and benefits of modeling these qualities in your workplace.]

  1. What are the most challenging parts of your role, as it pertains to supporting psychological health and safety in the workplace?

[Note to senior leader: Be mindful to avoid dismissing or questioning these challenges during this conversation as you may silence useful responses. Take a stance of open curiosity and record all the answers without comment. You may want to tell the individual that at a later date you will help problem solve each of these either with them individually or as a group, but without disclosing who shared which challenges. As you look for patterns in challenges among your leaders, you can tackle those that are most common or those that are most distressing first. During this initial conversation, however, you want to get to a place where the leader is motivated and supported to begin taking positive action.]

  1. Which of the leadership strategies identified in your assessment do you believe will be most beneficial at this time and why? Please choose only 1-3 strategies for now and ensure they can reasonably be integrated into your existing responsibilities.

[Note to senior leader: Each of the strategies are known to contribute to psychological health and safety based on the research cited in the National Standard and most are easily integrated to busy and demanding workloads. By encouraging only small changes, but on a continual basis, improvement is more likely to be sustained. Staying with known strategies and supporting the individual to choose those they feel are beneficial increases both commitment and potential for success.]

  1. What supports, resources, skills or training might you require to be successful at this?

[Note to senior leader: Whatever is offered here should be considered from a broader perspective – are there supports, resources, skills or training that all leaders might need or that should become a regular part of leadership development? If you are unable to provide what is requested, be honest and work with the leader to consider alternative ways to achieve similar results.]

  1. How would you measure positive change/improvement within your team?

[Note to senior leader: If you have additional ideas or strategies that will contribute to the positive change the leader is seeking, offer them. Also ensure that the measurement approach is realistic and attainable to support ultimate success.]

  1. When should we follow up to evaluate your success?

[Note to senior leader: Put the follow up appointment on both of your calendars now so that you truly have a process for accountability and continual improvement. At that time, if the strategy has been successful you should recognize the effort. If it was not successful, help determine why not and refine the strategy while considering if there are additional skills or training needed.]

Once a strategy has been successfully incorporated into the leader’s approach, you can reassess using the Psychologically Safe Leader Assessment and repeat for continual improvement. For most leaders, this should not be more than every six months to keep the process manageable.

Address any organizational barriers (policy, process, resources, training) to psychologically safe leadership.

  • Elements and Priorities Towards a Psychologically Safer Workplace can provide a framework to help with this.
  • Striking a committee to compare your existing approaches to those recommended by psychological health and safety experts in Elements & Priorities can be effective. Choosing members of the committee that represent all levels of employees as well as the different departments within your organization allows for diverse opinions that help you consider unintended consequences or unexpected perspectives from any planned changes.
  • This work can be done as an intense project or over time in 1-hour meeting increments. The objective is to have those familiar with your unique organization comparing the recommended approaches with what is practical and optimal for your setting. The group’s final recommendations would be passed on to senior leadership for approval or refinement.

Support leaders to develop concrete action plans that include measures of success.

  • Schedule one to one meetings with each leader to follow-up and support their development and implementation of their action plan. The Action Planning Workbook can help, and the following provides strategy-specific resources:
  • Click on the icons below for the domain(s) that include the strategies you wish to implement. From the dropdown menu, choose the relevant strategy/statement. You will be directed to information or given a link to a free resource that can help you with developing your action plan.
  • Establish concrete timelines and follow-up plans for leaders to develop realistic and attainable action plans.

The actual questions on the assessments for each of the leader and employees are provided for you, to review in advance, below.

Communication & Collaboration

Communication & Collaboration involves the clear exchange of information and transparent discussion of what a worker needs to do their job successfully. This involves collaborative efforts to support each worker’s success at work. Learn More

Social Intelligence

Social Intelligence involves acting as a role model and facilitator of psychologically safe interactions between and among all workplace stakeholders, including those who are marginalized or vulnerable. Learn More

Problem Solving & Conflict Management

Problem Solving and Conflict Management involves supporting and requiring consistent, respectful, and effective discussion and resolution of issues. Those who fail to do so are held accountable as needed. Learn More

Security and Safety

Security and Safety involves supporting a safe environment through proactive, prompt and effective responses to any threats to psychological or physical safety. Learn More

Fairness & Integrity

Fairness & Integrity involves leadership which is honest, transparent and consistent, where there is fairness and equity in decision-making, and a humble understanding of personal limitations and biases. Learn More

Monitor outcomes and reassess annually for continual improvement.

The Psychologically Safe Leader Assessment can be taken as many times as required. Having leaders complete the assessment on a yearly, or semi-yearly basis, coupled with a tailored action plan to enhance leadership strategies, allows continual improvement.